On The Job: WISCONSIN

On Sunday, July 5, 2009, a multiple-alarm fire destroyed four buildings totaling approximately 240,000 square feet at the Patrick Cudahy meat-packing plant in Cudahy, WI. The four three- and four-story buildings were constructed in 1893 of heavy timber...


On Sunday, July 5, 2009, a multiple-alarm fire destroyed four buildings totaling approximately 240,000 square feet at the Patrick Cudahy meat-packing plant in Cudahy, WI. The four three- and four-story buildings were constructed in 1893 of heavy timber with 18-inch brick walls. The buildings were...


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On Sunday, July 5, 2009, a multiple-alarm fire destroyed four buildings totaling approximately 240,000 square feet at the Patrick Cudahy meat-packing plant in Cudahy, WI. The four three- and four-story buildings were constructed in 1893 of heavy timber with 18-inch brick walls. The buildings were used for storage, microwave bacon production, ham production and maintenance.

The Cudahy Fire Department was dispatched at 10:52 P.M. to Patrick Cudahy at One Sweet Applewood Drive after maintenance workers called 911 reporting smoke in a building. Responding on the initial alarm were Engine 1463, a 1,250-gpm pumper, and Quint 1474, a 100-foot aerial with a 2,000-gpm pump, under the command of Lieutenant Dean Nelson.

Upon arrival, Nelson on Engine 1463 met with a maintenance person who reported heavy smoke on the second and third floors of Buildings C and D. With this information, Nelson requested a full assignment at 11:02 P.M., which brought engines from Cudahy, St. Francis and Oak Creek, a 100-foot truck from South Milwaukee and chiefs from the four communities to the fire.

The employees had evacuated the building upon the arrival of firefighters. As fire crews located the general area of the fire, personnel from Patrick Cudahy were instructed to isolate and pump out all hot-gas discharge valves, high-pressure liquid valves and high-temperature recirculation values because of an ammonia threat.

Initial Attack

Once gaining access to the structure, a crew of four firefighters and one maintenance person entered Building E, which led to the second floor of Building D where heavy white smoke was discovered. Firefighters encountered multiple difficulties on the second floor that included the massive size of the building, microwave transmitters and numerous entanglement hazards. A thermal imaging camera was used through the heavy smoke, but did not register any heat with temperatures in the area remaining around 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

Firefighters from South Milwaukee were sent to the roof, where they found fire burning through the roof in an area approximately four feet wide by 25 feet long. At this time, the crew opened the scuttles and determined that the fire appeared to be burning in the space between the roof and a drop ceiling. The roof conditions were continually monitored until it was determined that access to the fire from below would not be practical. Firefighters advanced two 2½-inch hoselines, attacked the fire burning in the exposed roof rafters, and cut holes in the roof's weakened area where a cellar nozzle was placed into the fire space and worked in the fire area.

As the condition deteriorated, command requested at 11:18 P.M. a Mutual Aid Box Alarm System (MABAS) box alarm, which brought to the scene engines from Greenfield and Greendale, a 100-foot tower ladder from Franklin, a 100-foot aerial from Wauwatosa (a rapid intervention team), a specialized rescue unit from Wauwatosa, the Milwaukee Fire Bell Club for rehab and chiefs from Greenfield and Wauwatosa.

At 11:21 P.M., a second alarm was ordered followed shortly by a third alarm at 11:22 P.M., bringing engines from Hales Corners, West Allis, South Shore and Caledonia, a 100-foot aerial from North Shore, a 100-foot tower from Brookfield, and chiefs from West Allis and North Shore to the incident. A special request for a rehab unit from the Racine Fire Bell Club was made. Throughout the early-morning hours, firefighters worked to gain control of the fire and protect the D-side exposure housing the ammonia tanks, which officials feared could be compromised.

On the Defensive

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